2008 Preseason Top 30 Prospects: The Just Misses

Olney: Yanks concerned about Pettitte's distractions
Wang: I was tired during the playoffs

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Pitchers and catchers will soon officially be in Tampa strutting their stuff with the hopes and promises of a new season filling the air. Times like this make us wonder how we ever managed to dread the dog days of summer. Just like the big league squad, the minor league affiliates are full of optimism with the new season on the horizon.

Overall, the farm system is in pretty good shape. There’s high end talent mixed with high probability talent, and the pitching crop at the upper levels is starting to be complimented by the position player crop at the lower levels. There’s an alarming lack of lefthanded pitchers, ditto power hitting prospects. The Yanks have surplus from which to make trades, and a good amount of guys that could be cheap injury fill-ins at the Major League level this year. Gone are days of Aaron Small, Matt Childers, Donovan Osborne and Terrence Long. There’s also a bright new crop of kids set to come up from Latin America this year, led by SS Jose Pirela and OF Kelvin DeLeon.

Unfortunately the Yanks didn’t pull off any neat trades this winter like last year (unless you count that Tyler Clippard-Jon Albaladejo blockbuster), so this year’s prospect list doesn’t include any new and fancy names. As always, the delicate balance between ceiling and probability are the main criteria for the rankings, but other stuff like performance, track record, position and handedness (tie goes to the lefty) also play a role. I had some trouble trimming the fat at the end of the list, so I decided to write-up a few extra players that just missed the cut.

The real Top 30 comes out tomorrow, but for now here’s five guys on the outside looking in. Fun starts after the jump.

35. Bradley Suttle, 3B, 22
Suttle makes the “just missed” list purely because he has a good amount of upside as a hitter. The Yanks have already revamped his hitting mechanics in an effort to shorten his stroke and get him to stop jumping out at plate, which is an obvious red flag. However, they didn’t spend $1.3M to sign the kid (when he was only asking for $1M no less) because they had money burning a hole in their pocket, they see something in him and like his potential. It’s almost imperative for Suttle to get off to a good start in 2008 to avoid even further scrutiny. That said, I’m still in the camp that thinks the instant Suttle gets hot and strings a few good months together the Yanks should look to trade him in a package for a impact big leaguer.

34. Marcos Vechionacci, 3B, 21
Vech’s OPS the last three years has gone from .659 to .669 to .673, so that counts as improvement, right? I’ll be here all week folks. Seriously though, Vech still has top 10 talent, but at some point he’s got to start performing, or at least start to show signs of putting it together. If he doesn’t, he’ll be just another guy that has oodles of ability but never managed to put it to good use. Vech has been in the system for what seems like an eternity, making it hard to believe that he’s still so young, which is why I’m not (and you shouldn’t be) willing to completely write him off yet. There’s still a shot the light bulb will go on, but now it’s just a dinky little refrigerator light as opposed to bright florescent bulb. I wouldn’t call 2008 a make-or-break year, but the kid’s gotta up his game because time, once his greatest ally, is starting to run out. Trenton awaits him in 2008.

33. Steven White, RHP, 26
A forgotten man amongst the higher profile pitching prospects in the system, White could very well be the first arm called up whenever reinforcements are needed. Having steadily climbed the ladder during his four year career, White doesn’t have great stuff or even a trusty go-to pitch, but he eats innings and generally keeps the ball in the park. He basically fills the role of the next Jeff Karstens or Darrell Rasner, a nice and experienced guy to have when he’s cheap, and also capable of pitching in a variety of roles. Given the overall state of pitching in the game today, lots of teams will come calling for White if he has a strong camp.

32. Eric Duncan, 1B, 23
I’m not ready to completely give up on Duncan yet, but this is without a doubt his make-or-break year (heh, I’m pretty sure I’ve said that before). He still shows glimpses of the mammoth power that got him drafted ahead of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Adam Jones and Jon Papelbon, and he’s young enough that learning how to lay off breaking pitches is not completely out of the question. Duncan still murders mistakes and has always had a knack for picking up timely hits, so there’s a glimmer of hope here. Are you ready for my boldly stupid prediction for 2008? Well here it is: Eric Duncan will be the Yankees starting first baseman the second half of the year. You heard it here first.

31. Scott Patterson, RHP, 28
The feel good story of the system, Patterson is on the cusp of the big leagues after years of post-game peanut butter & jelly sandwiches in the Independent Leagues. A monster at 6’7″, 230 lbs, Patterson ups the intimidation factor by coming right over the top in his delivery. The Yanks forked over a Major League deal this offseason, which speaks volumes to what they think of him. Patterson has an advantage over some of the other guys vying for a roster because a) he’s already on the 40 man, and b) he’s got a ton of experience, having pitched in every role imaginable in his career.

I recently had a chance to sit down with Scott and ask him some questions before he headed off for Spring Training; he gave nice and concise answers, and I appreciate him taking the time to talk with me.

RAB: How does life in the Minors differ from life in the Independent leagues?

SP: There really isn’t much of a difference. All the competition was good.

What is the biggest difference you’ve noticed between the hitters in Indy ball and those in Minors?

In the minors, every team you face there are 2 or 3 batters you know that are going to make it to the big leagues. In independent ball there are only 2 or 3 guys in the whole league that will probably make the big leagues.

There are lots of teams out there looking for bullpen help. What make you pick the Yankees, where you’ll have to battle for a roster spot, as opposed to another team without as much competition?

I have been here for 3 years, I like the organization and I know everyone. If you are going to play for a team why not play for the best team if they give you a shot?

How would you describe yourself as a pitcher? What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?

I go right after the hitters and just throw strikes. Strengths: Good command in the strike zone. Weakness: working on the third pitch.

Finding comfortable mechanics is one of the biggest hurdles facing tall pitchers. How long did it take you to find a delivery that worked for you?

It did not take me long because I was always out throwing a baseball against my house. I have had that delivery most of my life.

Can you point to anyone who gave you a piece of criticism/advice that helped you become the pitcher you are today? What was it?

Cal Bailey my college coach at West Virginia State…Don’t let the lead off guy get on, two out of three had to be strikes, and don’t be afraid of anyone.

You recently returned from winter ball in Venezuela; what was that like? What was the talent like compared to the States? What about the facilities and fans?

It was a good thing to try out once. The talent is the same and it gets really good at playoffs because you see a lot more big leaguers. They were both good, the facility and fans are very passionate for the sport down there.

Since joining the Yanks, is there anything you’ve been working on in particular? I know the Yanks are fond of teaching guys curveballs.

I already have a good curve, but I’ve been working on the slider for them.

Where does winning the Eastern League Championship with Trenton in 2007 rank amongst your career highlights? You’ve won some titles in Indy ball, how did it compare to that?

Both the same, you get nice rings. But, you see a little better competition every level you move up.

What kind of plans and/or goals do you have for the upcoming season?

I will work as hard as I can, pitch as good as I can and let the coaches decide where to put me.

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Olney: Yanks concerned about Pettitte's distractions
Wang: I was tired during the playoffs
  • dan

    Interesting list…. they all missed the top 30 for different reasons.

  • http://www.samiamsports.blogspot.com samiamsports

    a bit off topic but i thought you guys might find this funny, steiner sports is selling this.

    Carl Pavano #45 2007 Game Issued Home Pinstripe Jersey w/ Arm Band 52 +2
    $250.00

    if its really a game used jersey, its got to be limited edition right? lol

  • Lanny

    Whats with bad mouthing Aaron Small??

    Some people forget 2005 pretty quick.

  • Mat

    I agree with the Duncan prediction, I think the light finally turns on and he has a monster camp that carries into the season, and when Giambi gets injured(it will happen) and Shelley is shown to be nothing more than a solid bench player Eric will get the call and solidify the infield.

    • Count Zero

      Wow! You and Mike are both out on a limb here. :-)

      Personally, I would love it if you guys happened to be right. I’m really pulling for the kid and he has the highest ceiling (IMO) of any of the 1B possibilities. I just don’t see Miranda ever hitting MLB lefties.

  • CB

    Mike,

    How much did Suttle’s abysmal season in Hawaii factor into your rankings? How much does Hawaii factor in given his past difficulties hitting with wood bats at Cape Cod?

    He didn’t make BA’s top 30 for the yanks either and BA liked him quite a bit before the draft. Seems people are cooling on him, despite the signing bonus.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      It factored quite a bit. Like you said, the guy has never hit with wood bats. That’s a bad sign for a guy who’s value stems almost entirely from his ability to hit. If had even a mediocre HWB, say .270-.330-.410, then he probably would have cracked the 30 because it’s signs of improvement.

      I read in BA recently where a scout mentioned that a lot of college switch hitters tend to strike towards the plate (instead of towards to the pitcher) because they get pitched away so much, and Suttle has that issue. Weiters supposedly had the same problem, but got over it quickly because, well, because he’s Matt frickin’ Weiters.

  • Mike R.

    I have this crazy theory that could help the Yanks land that power hitting prospect we lack.

    The Yankees have a boatload of pitching. The Brewers currently have Prince Fielder at 1B and Ryan Braun should be playing LF as soon as they realize he can’t play third. Matt LaPorta is a man with no place to play. What knd of package would we have to send Milwaukee to get him? I think it is doable. Any thoughts?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      I’m not willing to give up what Milwaukee would want for a R-R 1B. How many of those guys have success in the bigs? Not many. Only one I can think of off the top of my head is Sexson.

      • Lanny

        Lets not call Sexson a success. His last yrs have been downright awful.

        Seattle can blame him for not winning the West last yr.

        • RollingWave

          wow , thats ridiculas statement there. Sexson is just 6 HR away from 300 dingers for his career now at age 32, he’s not a hall of famer or anything, but he at least *was* a pretty good player. if your going to write off a player because of him falling off a cliff one year. then Bernie Williams also sux.

          Mike, I seem to recall a certain Albert guy who i heard is a pretty half decent R.R 1B no? :P … you know, that guy on some red bird team? ;) the astrerisk guy he succeded wasn’t exactly a shabby R.R 1B either.

          Then there’s also Jeff Bagwell who wasn’t exactly shabby himself

          there’s quiet a few more that’s pretty solid to some extend, Youkilis, Millar (for a few years anyway)

          I’d think there’s plenty of good right handed 1B.

          As for Laporta, I’m not sure how exactly we match up with them though. their need isn’t particularly clear. they have talents up their nose anyway in most respect the only problem is that they aren’t putting it together at the same time. I suppose they could use Melky + Hughes (who doesn’t) but that doesn’t exactly make sense for us.

          I also agree with ur prediction on Duncan to some extend. if only because he’s already in AAA. any sign of life and problem in the bigs (the former i’m not sure, the later it likely) and he’ll get a shot.

          • http://riveraveblues.com Mike A.

            Good point, but the track record isn’t great. Those guys are the some of the very best to ever play the game.

            For what it’s worth, Pujols didn’t come up as a 1B, he didn’t move there until two years or so into his ML career. Remember when Aaron Boone got hurt? Pujols was the first person the Yanks inquired about to fill his spot.

  • http://www.overheardinnewyork.com NC Saint

    Good to see Suttle not making the cut. Here’s hoping, but let’s see him produce with a wood bat before we take him too too seriously.

    But Duncan starting? As in every day? Awful defense notwithstanding, don’t you think Miranda has a better chance of starting in the second half, at least when the other team is starting a righty?

  • Lanny

    Can Suttle actually play a full yr before anyone gets down on him?

    Just a thought

    • http://www.overheardinnewyork.com NC Saint

      Before people give up on him, certainly. But just as it is smart to be pretty guarded about any prospect that hasn’t played pro-ball yet, it is smart to be even more guarded about a prospect who has played a little and done terribly. He might still be terrific. And the sample-size is far too small to call him a flop. But when you hit .100 for a while, your stock goes down a bit. That’s not hysteria. That’s not jumping the gun. That’s not writing him off. That’s just common sense.

  • Lanny

    Can Duncan hit over 250 before we hand him the 1b job in the Bronx? He cant even hit 250 at Trenton. Check the stats.

    Miranda is ways above him.

    • Jake

      No one was handing him the job. Mike said it was his boldly stupid prediction. You gotta lighten up.

      • Lanny

        You got to lighten up Jake and take some playful ribbing. Jeez. Lay off the caffeine, mate.

  • Adrian-Retire21

    I think the Aaron Small thing was saying prospects who only help for 1 year.

    I think the Yankees should have gotten rid of one of these outfielders like Damon,Abreu or Melky for prospects.

  • zack

    Tells you a lot when a guy like Steven White, who would be a top 5 in the Mets or Nationals, and woulda been a top 5 just a few years ago in the Yanks’ system, doesn’t even make the top 30 (!!).

  • pete

    Who’s to say duncan can’t be an every day first baseman? He batted .295 w/ 25 hrs in AAA last year before his callup, and he hit for a good average when he first came up, too. It wasn’t until his at-bats became fewer and further between that his average started to fall towards .250. And his defense actually looked quite good to me last year. Not necessarily on the mientkeivicz/phillips level, but his extra height is duly noted as a serviceable advantage. I say give him a shot. If he’s hitting .220 in may, then put him on the bench. But you never know. He could have 10 home runs by then.

  • steve (different one)

    Are you ready for my boldly stupid prediction for 2008? Well here it is: Eric Duncan will be the Yankees starting first baseman the second half of the year. You heard it here first.

    i love the boldness here, but can you please pass some of stuff you are smoking??

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

      Nah. I finished it last night :)

  • Joey

    Hey guys, just wanted to let ya know I’m kinda ripping off of your “big three” thing. Not published, just have my favorites set and I thought it would be perfect for my baseball blogs. The folder is “The Big Three Blogs” and I have Shysterball, RAB, and LoHud in it. In another folder I have other Yanks blogs, just wanted to let you know!

  • stefan

    I find it ironic that Eric Duncan’s defense gets knocked, but Juan Miranda is mentioned in the same sentence. Duncan may have below-average D, but Miranda is just plain god-awful at the position. Like, worse than Giambi, who can at least be complimented for having a good glove and being good at scooping low throws.

    Miranda may have a high floor because of his platoon potential, but Duncan has a much higher ceiling.

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  • Bill

    I have very little faith in Eric Duncan. He has serious issues with making contact, he has a bad back (back injuries usually don’t go away for long), he’s been absolutely terrible his past three years, and his defense is sub par at best making it all about the bat for him. People are hesistant to call him a bust because of that talent he showed seemingly ages ago, but he hasn’t shown much that could lead you to believe he is still that type of player. He still has the ability to turn it around, but I’m definitely not holding my breath on that.

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